Who is a Health Educator?
I read somewhere recently about Socrates’ approach to education, as well as his definition of an educated individual. Socrates believed an educated man or woman is one who can control unpleasant situations, instead of being controlled by them. He believed that an individual who is honest in all of his or her transactions, one who can control his or her pleasures, and one who is not defeated by his or her failures is educated. When we think of healthy living, we sometimes think of difficulties such as eating food that is not so tasty, choosing to wear a condom versus not wearing a condom, gaining weight after making a New Year's resolution to shed a few pounds, and other unpleasant situations. According to Socrates’ definition of an educated individual, a man or woman who is educated about health isn't one who knows all about healthy living, but one who picks himself up after failing to lose a desired weight, for example. An individual educated on health and wellness controls his or her pleasures, however unhealthy they may be. He/she is a master of his/her faith as expressed by the poet William Henley.
Having defined an educated person according to Socrates’ philosophy, how then can we define a health educator? A health educator could be defined in numerous ways. Knowing that the root words are health and education, we may be better served to first define health and then an educator as we did an educated person. Health is one's state of being. It is a state that determines your progress in life, your productivity. It is the state of being free from illness or injury, an individual's mental or physical condition. Education, on the other hand, is the process of receiving or giving information, particularly in a structured environment. It is the theory and practice of teaching; one who teaches can therefore be called a teacher or an educator.
Putting both words together, a health educator would then be an individual who uses theories and practice to teach principles of well-being. However, the role of a health educator is greater than merely teaching about health and wellness. It includes enabling individuals who are in need of improved health and wellness to take the needed steps toward personal behavioral changes – changes that would improve one's wellness. The joint committee on terminology defines a health educator as a "professionally prepared individual who serves in a variety of roles and is specifically trained to use appropriate educational strategies and methods to facilitate the development of policies, procedures, interventions, and systems conducive to the health of individuals groups and communities."
The health educator must be able to assess both individual and community needs for health education. He or she must be able to plan health education strategies, interventions and programs. A health educator can implement health education strategies, interventions, and programs as well as conduct evaluation and research related to any health education program. This individual must be able to administer health education strategies and serve as a resource person who also advocates for health education in public affairs. The most challenging part of being a health educator, in my opinion, is encouraging individuals to change behaviors and habits they've held on to for years. I believe this makes for an interesting yet tasking career choice with long term benefits. Earlier we deduced that a health educated individual is one that is not only knowledgeable about health and well-being but also has the ability to make healthy decisions; the job of a health educator is to enable everyone to make the right health choices and decisions – now that's a daunting task.